Sunday, February 26, 2012

Giving Back to the Genealogy Community

For the past seven years, the majority of my genealogy research has been done online using sites such as,,,,, just to name a few. I have been fortunate in finding hundreds of my ancestors and allied families because of the work of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of volunteers who have indexed billions of images.

With the upcoming release of the 1940 census, an excellent opportunity exists to give back to the genealogy community by doing some indexing of my own. I had done some indexing of records a few years ago, but the release of the census has created a new motivation to help out.

I started by becoming an Ambassador for the 1940 census by sharing my information and discoveries here on The first stop is That's where you, too, can sign up to help index the census. To get ready, you can get some practice by indexing other images. I chose an easy batch to work on, the World War I registrations. I selected five batches of 25 records each.

Image from FamilySearch Indexing Software
World War I Registration Database
I was already familiar with the information in this database since I've added a lot of these images to my trees on Each image appears and the indexer types in information such as Given Name, Surname, Date of Birth, Location of Birth, and Native country.

Interpreting handwriting is essential to the project. I know how frustrated I have been when someone has not entered information correctly on an image I'm looking at. In this regard, I've found both Wikipedia and Google to help me index. If I am unable to interpret the name of a city or town, I search for it on Wikipedia. For example, I search for "cities in Kansas." I can peruse or search the page listing all cities, looking for something similar to the handwriting on the document. This technique has worked for all of the images I have indexed so far.

Surnames aren't quite so easy. This is where Google comes in. I type in my best interpretation of the surname and add the word "surname" to my search. This nearly always gives me the option that matches the image. It's certainly better than just guessing at the handwriting.

I've really found this to be a rewarding activity, and I really feel as though I am able to give a little back to the genealogy community.

Back to that indexing!


  1. Thanks for the great tips. This is going to be my first time indexing so every tip and trick is most welcome.

  2. Thanks, Susan. I've just finished my fifth batch; back is sore, so after a break, I'll do some more!

  3. Susan, I've just recently started indexing at FamilySearch and just today I found that if you're having trouble reading a name or place you can go up to Edit > Lookup and enter a few letters and suggestions will be displayed that you can choose from. I wish I'd taken advantage of this feature earlier in my indexing.

  4. Susan, I've joined you in the indexing of FamilySearch. Try to work a batch or two every morning with my coffee. Very rewarding and a neat way to pay back for all the help I've received over the years.